AP Preseason College Football Rankings 2014: Analyzing Initial Top 25 Poll

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AP Preseason College Football Rankings 2014: Analyzing Initial Top 25 Poll
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After months of anticipation, the first 2014 Associated Press college football rankings list has been announced. Much like the end of 2013, Florida State's run atop the poll continues ahead of this season.

The Seminoles took the top position on the heels of winning a national championship and finishing 14-0 last year. After receiving all 60 first-place votes to close out last year, the Noles earned 57 in the initial poll for the 2014 season.

One thing FSU coach Jimbo Fisher said his team is not dealing with is pressure to perform. Fisher spoke about his team's mentality coming into the season, per Tess Quinlan of USA Today:

"There is no added pressure," Fisher said. "Our goal every year is to win the national championship. That's why we're at Florida State."

Rounding out the Top Five after FSU is a slew of programs looking to steal the crown. Alabama, Oregon and Oklahoma all earned one first-place vote, but each still sit more than 100 points away from the reigning champs.

With the first-ever College Football Playoff now deciding the best team, the fight begins soon to decide which four schools will make it. Here's a look at the AP preseason college football rankings and analysis ahead of 2014.

2014 AP Preseason College Football Poll
Pos. Team Points (1st-Place Votes)
1 Florida State 1,496 (57)
2 Alabama 1,361 (1)
3 Oregon 1,334 (1)
4 Oklahoma 1,324 (1)
5 Ohio State 1,207
6 Auburn 1,198
7 UCLA 1,106
8 Michigan State 1,080
9 South Carolina 1,015
10 Baylor 966
11 Stanford 885
12 Georgia 843
13 LSU 776
14 Wisconsin 637
15 USC 626
16 Clemson 536
17 Notre Dame 445
18 Ole Miss 424
19 Arizona State 357
20 Kansas State 242
21 Texas A&M 238
22 Nebraska 226
23 North Carolina 194
24 Missouri 134
25 Washington 130

The Associated Press

* Full breakdown of rankings can be found here.

 

Breakdown of Top Programs

Was there ever any question who would top the initial AP poll? Reigning Heisman winner Jameis Winston returns as the favorite for the award again, per OddsShark.com, and retains hopes for another title.

Not only did the Seminoles finish last season undefeated, but they also have quite a stretch of wins from 2012. ESPN Stats & Info provides a look at FSU's streak:

But the offseason certainly hasn't come without adversity for the program. Winston made headlines and was suspended from the baseball team for shoplifting crab legs, but he still comes into the season under center for the No. 1 team in the country and has a very bright outlook.

Recently, more issues have occurred in Tallahassee, though, as one of Winston's receivers will not be playing during the 2014 season. Sophomore Isaiah Jones was ruled academically ineligible and won't suit up for FSU.

After the loss of Kelvin Benjamin and Kenny Shaw on offense, the need for breakout weapons is high. But as Powell Latimer of Rivals notes, Jones might not have been a presence offensively prior to being ineligible:

Moving on from the Seminoles, two programs that come in with optimism are none other than Alabama and Oregon. The two powers of the SEC and Pac-12, respectively, could be looking at special seasons despite being behind FSU in the initial AP poll.

Though Alabama comes in behind FSU in the first rankings, the Crimson Tide are the current odds-on favorite to win the title at 5-1, per OddsShark.com. For Oregon and Bama, success is nothing new for either team, as College GameDay points out:

While Marcus Mariota has Heisman hype surrounding him at Oregon, Alabama is still looking for its next leader.

The departure of AJ McCarron leaves a void at the quarterback position that has yet to be filled. With both Jacob Coker and Blake Sims hoping to win the job, Nick Saban offered his thoughts on the position battle, per Michael Casagrande of AL.com:

I do think Blake probably is playing a little faster right now. He's been in the system longer and has a better understanding, has a little more rhythm. ...

I think sometimes Jake was still trying to feel his way. He made some real significant strides this week in practice and had some really good practices. So that's still going to be a competitive situation. ...

Until someone clearly wins the job, we're not going to make a decision.

From one quarterback battle to a signal-caller that slayed the mighty Alabama last season.

Most of the hopes for the Sooners rests on the shoulders of Trevor Knight. The sophomore quarterback comes into the season as the man behind center, giving OU fans reason to believe they can compete for a national title.

At the close of the 2013 season, Knight led the offense over a stout Alabama team in the Sugar Bowl. Now, with complete control of the reins, college football fans are waiting to see how he responds.

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Bob Stoops, who led the Sooners to a championship in 2000, believes Knight has the talent to turn the team into a contender. Stoops spoke about his quarterback's talent, via George Schroeder of USA Today:

"He played at a pretty incredible level (against Alabama)," he said. "I expect a more consistent player along that caliber. He has that kind of talent, and obviously he showed it."

With several other teams like Auburn, Ohio State, Michigan State and others looking to crack the first College Football Playoff, the rankings are sure to change once the season starts.

For now, the top teams are set in the minds of the AP voters.

 

Follow @RCorySmith on Twitter.

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